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on October 23, 2012
Can't say it any better than Ken at (awesome free speach legal blog).

In Unlearning Liberty, Greg reviews the different occasions and excuses for censorship in modern American universities, marshaling a bewildering array of case studies. Some were familiar to me: the ludicrous reaction to posters at University of Wisconsin-Stout, the legal threats to critics of the administration of Peace College, and the entirely repellent tale of Indiana University punishing a student worker for reading a book about struggles against the Klan in front of coworkers. Many others were new to me -- and I follow FIRE fairly closely. Greg has a talent for describing instances of censorship in a way to outrage me anew even if I have heard of them before. (For instance, I defy anyone to read about the University of Delaware's frankly Stalinist reeducation program for frosh without feeling disgust and contempt; Greg offers new details that led me to put the book down and go take a walk for a while.)

But this is not merely a compilation of cases. Greg traces the history of campus censorship after the "political correctness" disputes of the 1990s, and weaves the incidents of censorship together to explain how different vaguely defined ideas (like "harassment" and "disruption" and "civility") are used in an unprincipled manner as trump cards to shut people up. Moreover, Greg rather convincingly illustrates how university censorship impacts the attitudes and tolerances of students, and explains why we should fear that students taught to submit to censorship and due process violations will not be reliable supporters of free expression or due process as voting adults.
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VINE VOICEon April 13, 2013
"Unlearning Liberty" is a worthy successor to "The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses," written by Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate, the co-founders of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) and published in 1999. Greg Lukianoff has been President of FIRE since 2001, and most of the cases of free speech and due process violations on our college campuses that form the backbone of this lively and informative book, were referred to FIRE over the past dozen years. Since the problems of "political correctness" and the over-reaching of speech codes have been well known since "The Shadow University" and other exposés were published in the 1990s, it is very dispiriting to see that the pace at which freedoms are violated has not slackened. Lukianoff does not permit himself to be discouraged, however, and concludes the book with the hope that reforms targeted at making higher education more affordable may also fuel other reforms, including unchaining thought and speech on campus. Despite the fact that he earlier links the infringement of individual rights to the growth of the professional university administration, he does not, however, provide much hope or evidence that this is likely to happen. FIRE itself is one of the chief blocks to what seem to be an ever-increasing willingness of both campus administration and government to limit freedom in order to protect students from hurt feelings and foster civility.

The stories related here are chilling. They include, for example, an older student working his way through college found guilty of racial harassment merely for reading a book, an orientation program that literally trains its practitioners to stifle debate, several schools that have explicitly prohibited Christian groups from forming organizations thus depriving them of the rights of association while other kinds of student groups have free rein, guidelines circulated with syllabi that demand student agreement with debatable assumptions and graduate programs that expel students who dispute approved definitions of "social justice." Examples of such trends and practices are truly disturbing.

One of the most frightening trends, as Lukianoff's many narratives of rights-violations makes clear, is the creation of regulations and laws by the Department of Education and state legislatures that literally require universities to violate the individual rights of their students (e.g., the "Dear Colleagues" letter issued by the DOE in 2011 requires a reduced standard of evidence to convict a student of harassment, including sexual assault). Lukianoff even explains how a recent Supreme Court decision misconstrues the first amendment. The law of the land is itself moving away from protecting our liberty, an evolution this book interestingly links to the flagging attention to vigorous debate and critical thinking fostered on campuses where students and faculty alike are increasingly afraid of expressing themselves bluntly and clearly. We are in danger of failing to educate the next generation of citizens to value central freedoms.

My only criticism of this important and fluidly written book is its organization. Each chapter opens from the perspective of a fictional student first learning about, then applying to, finally being admitted to and attending a fictional college campus. The anecdotes and interests of the chapters follow those of this hypothetical young student, from censorship in high schools to hypocrisy in college publicity and admission to the excesses of orientation programs and infringement of freedom of association on campus. I found this structure confusing and would have preferred that the powerful evidence supplied by this book had been organized by a more rigorous topical method--e.g., a chapter on speech codes, followed by a chapter on the rise of the therapeutic approach to student life, followed by a chapter on due process, freedom of association and so forth. I also thought that the fictionalizing thought experiment that governs the book's structure blunts the brute reality of the true stories that it tells. But if Lukianoff's student-centered approach attracts more young readers, the loss of clarity will be worth the expansion of readership.
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on February 13, 2013
I'll freely admit to being a dyed-in-the-wool social Conservative, so obviously I can resonate with this book. However, Mr. Lukianoff (a lifelong Democrat) really makes a great case that all of us are prone to censoring views we don't like and surrounding ourselves with only people and media that say what we want to hear. All of us need to resist these urges and instead engage in debate and dialogue with others. He focuses on colleges and the stories he relays just get your blood boiling. It is amazing that people don't see their own hypocrisy. Mr. Lukianoff really shows that stifling debate and dialogue is a huge cause of the current polarization in this country. When you think your side is right and the other side is evil, why treat them with respect? Ultimately, although he focuses on college, the attitudes he described can be witnessed on the nightly news every day in just about every facet of life. We do not have a "right to not be offended" and the sooner Americans internalize this message, and the many others in this book, the sooner we will all learn to come together even if we don't agree on everything.
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on February 20, 2013
I work in the administrative side of higher education, and have known about the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for several years. Their attacks against speech codes and reeducation has garnered my support, and I was thrilled that their president, Greg Lukianoff, wrote a book highlighting many of the cases FIRE has participated in.

I've always seen FIRE as an ACLU-type organization designed for the higher education landscape. An organization that protects a student's, as well as faculty member's, speech even if the speech is something no one agrees with. I appreciated Lukianoff openening up personally at the beginning of the book and discussing his liberal worldview. I myself am conservative, so I suddenly became hesitant moving forward. However, there is clearly middle ground where a very liberal person and a very conservative person can stand together in unity in the protection of free speech and due process.

Lukianoff creatively sets the book up as if he is preparing a young man for the world of higher education. The student's excitement becomes subdued as he witnesses as well as experiences the devastation that Political Correctness has caused on campuses nationwide.

There is not institution too revered or too ignoble to lie outside the efforts of Lukianoff and FIRE. You will read about places like Harvard and Yale quelling free speech, community colleges that suspend students without due process, and all sorts of institutions doing all they can to protect one's feelings over one's First Amendment right. These stories will make you grimmace and shake your head, while Lukianoff's words will make you shout "Amen!"

"Unlearning Liberty" is an excellent book for anyone to read, but especially those who work in Student Conduct or Residence Life fields. We need to take an honest look at what our profession has done to student rights, and how we can best protect them in the future.
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on January 24, 2017
The modern internet echo chamber is directly related to our fear and avoidance of alternate points of view. Lukianoff ties real world example of censorship from campuses across the country with their consequences in the marketplace of ideas. No matter your ideological leanings I would hope that this material would be as important to you as it is to me and the future of our democracy.
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on October 30, 2012
Greg Lukianoff is an lawyer and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). In this book Lukianoff included lots of cases that document his conclusion that one of the areas of the Western world that freedom of speech is most severely limited is on College Campuses. After noting he is a liberal atheist he found it ironic that he has spent a sizable portion of his career defending Christian groups. He added "I was shocked to realize how badly Christians groups are often treated" on college campuses today (page 163). In doing research he has found that they were the only group that a majority of college faculty had strong negative feelings about, and then documents his claims with scores of cases showing blatant discrimination against Christians at college after college. The vacuous claims made by the colleges to excuse this discrimination are at times ludicrous as well as illegal, yet the courts have in several cases condoned this discrimination. Last he sees the situation as getting worse in some areas, so his job is secure.
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on August 10, 2013
This book provides a fascinating overview of the threat to our society that is being fostered by the attack on free speech on our college campuses today. The result is a frightening picture of new biases, prejudices, and narrow-mindedness that is being obtained in our next generation of leaders. The real-life examples are shocking, but also extremely compelling in the way they prove how pervasive the lack of free speech and freedom of association has become and how damaging it can be. You wouldn't believe it if you didn't know that the examples were true. This book is a must read for anyone who believes in education as the path toward an elevated society and for anyone who treasures an open society.
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on January 14, 2013
All this nation's citizens should read this book. It is instructive as to why we are so divided today.

Greg Lukianoff and I have very little in common. He is an atheist and liberal whereas I am a believer and conservative. That being said, we both have a passion for the free exchange of ideas. I !eally like this guy

Political Correctness Run Amok

In the name of diversity, colleges and universities have made honest debate almost impossible. It also makes these same colleges and universities hypocrites of the first order. Free speech? it's fine as long as you don't say anything. The PC culture has hogtied honest questions and honest debate. Nobody said it would be pretty, but honest questions and honest debate advances understanding and avoids such travesties as the "water buffalo" imbroglio.

To his credit Mr. Lukianoff defends everyone's right to free speech, including Christians, even though he is an atheist. That, ladies and gentlemen, is honesty and not PC.

At my own college in the 60's, we purported ourselves to be a virtual oasis of free speech and the free exchange of ideas and philosophies--that is unless you were from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Dow Chemical, Honeywell or other "oppressors of the war machine." Then you were either chased off campus or not allowed to even set foot on it.

Yes, some ideas are repugnant, but they deserve to be expressed and be allowed to stand or fall on their own merits. Had genuine free speech and genuine exchange of ideas taken place, one might have found out that soldiers are not baby killers and that corporations, for all their faults, are not for the most part run by lunatics.

Today we have evolved into one issue factions that compete to see who can yell the loudest and most effectively demonize the opposition. Honest debate is a full contact sport, but it can be most enlightening to all who engage in it.

Thank you, Greg Lukianoff, for standing for honest debate and for campaigning against campus censorship.
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on January 3, 2013
In early 2002, I wrote an op-ed for The Anchor, which is the student newspaper of Rhode Island College in Providence. I ranted about the highly publicized incidents of campus censorship across town at Brown U. In observing the trend, I argued how college stunted intellectual growth by blunting the free exchange of ideas, creating a generation of entitled, sentitive ninnies. It seemed to me back then that this was a trend particular to American campuses, as I had visited Cambridge in England during college to be told about the distinctly and opposingly ideological schools within the university.

Lo and behold, a decade later, is this marvelous work. Ironically, not too far into its pages is dishonerable mention of Rhode Island College. Besides Viola Davis being its most famous alumna, R.I. College is typically at a loss for national recognition. A couple of thoughts on this: for one, The Anchor had both libertarian and right-wing editors in my final years on campus. The former had threatened (and even filed) lawsuits on the paper's behalf against various campus interests for attempts at censorship. The latter editor was sure to register his right-wing views on the front page! For the most part, the paper is probably one of the least censored campus rags in the country, or at least was. There would be descriptive, queer club literature spanning pages, for instance, then an "anti-gay" screed right after. Profesors with high class failure rates would be spotlighted. Otherwise, the stories the author presents about the College are completely real, as most faculty on that campus are condescending liberal elites. Classes were often highly structured lectures with little room for student comment. One bright spot, I believe, is the current president, Nancy Carrioulo. She is very open, even providing me with her relatively controversial comments about the gender imbalance on campuses today, usually favoring women. She sees it as problematic, as I presented her statements before a class during my brief return to campus for further study.

On that topic, I firmly believe that the female dominance on so many American campuses today may partially explain the origins of campus censorship. The paternalistic, chivalrous white male administrators went in deep with beliefs of women's victimization, and figured that hypersensitive speech codes would contribute to the remedy against sexism. As the book shows, enough women have had problems with campus censorship as well. Also, it's worth noting how various college Republican groups are very pro-censorship, even as they are the first to complain against speech codes. I think a chief example is David Horowitz, who would apparently rather not listed to pro-Muslim and anti-neocon (anti-Isreal) interests in academia. He even came out in favor of government affirmative action for the hiring of "conservative" professors.

A wonderful read that belongs in every college library nationwide
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on November 24, 2012
If you had told me that the next really good book that I would read on anything even parenthetically related to politics or the constitution would have been written by a liberal atheist, I would have been very dubious. But Unlearning Liberty, about the attack on free speech on college campuses and the effect that it has on society as a whole, was excellent. Greg Lukianoff didn't, as is so often the case, ignore the errors of those he agrees with politically. The book was an even-handed look at the way colleges infringe on students' rights and the alarming changes in attitudes toward free speech. If you are interested in constitutional issues, higher education reform, or the way that our society can--or can't--deal with complex issues, I highly recommend this book.
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